Habilitation defines the qualification to conduct the dissertation-contained university teaching and is the key for access to a professorship in many European countries.
Despite all changes implemented in the European higher education systems during the Bologna Process, it is the highest qualification level issued through the process of a university examination and remains a core concept of scientific careers in these countries. The degree is conferred for a habilitation thesis based on independent scholarship, which was reviewed by and successfully defended before an academic committee in a process similar to that of a doctoral dissertation. In some countries, a habilitation degree is a required formal qualification to independently teach and examine a designated subject at the university level. The term habilitation is derived from the Medieval Latin habilitare, meaning «to make suitable, to fit», from Classical Latin habilis «fit, proper, skillful».
Initially, habilitation was synonymous with doctoral qualification. The term became synonymous with post-doctoral qualification in Germany in the 19th century «when holding a doctorate seemed no longer sufficient to guarantee a proficient transfer of knowledge to the next generation». A similar concept known as livre-docência exists in some private universities in Brazil, and in the three state universities of the state of São Paulo, where it is a pre-requisite of full professorship. The level of scholarship of a habilitation is considerably higher than for a doctoral dissertation in the same academic tradition in terms of quality and quantity, and must be accomplished independently, without direction or guidance of a faculty supervisor. Although disciplines and countries vary in the typical number of years for obtaining habilitation after getting a doctorate, it usually takes longer than for the American tenure.
Livre-docência is the dissertation title granted to holders of doctorate degrees upon submission of a cumulative thesis followed by a viva voce examination. 1950s, formerly awarded by universities in France had a somewhat similar purpose. In 1984, Docteur d’État was replaced by the Habilitation à diriger des recherches. The award of the French Habilitation is a general requirement for supervising PhD students and applying for Professeur position. In order to hold the rank of Full Professor within the German system, it is necessary to have attained the habilitation or «habilitation-equivalent achievements» that can be demonstrated by leading a research group, being a Junior Professor, or other achievements in research and teaching.
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Only those candidates receiving the highest or second-highest grade for their doctoral thesis are encouraged to proceed to the habilitation. Since 2006, in some federal states of Germany, there have been new restrictions by the federal laws regarding the degree of the doctoral thesis which allow only excellent candidates to enter the process of Habilitation. A distinct procedure, but a formality after completing the habilitation, is officially receiving the venia legendi, Latin for «permission for lecturing», or the ius docendi, «right of teaching» a specific academic subject at universities for a lifetime. Privatdozent», as it is implied therein, and only rarely with «Professor», in which it used to be implied.
While the Habilitation ensures the rights of the independent research and the supervision, it is on behalf of the statute of the universities to give those rights also to, e. Currently the major Austrian universities do that only for master’s level students, but not for PhD programs. In the Italian legal system, «habilitations» are different types of acts and authorizations. In other cases, especially in the case of the health professions or of the childcare professional, not protected by a professional nature, the degree itself is a qualifying title. Finally, some habilitations, since their activities can’t be done autonomously, need to be hired in a suitable structure in order to effectively carry out the profession in question.
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